CHERRY HILL, N.J. –
Nearly 700 representatives from the Defense Logistics Agency, military services and domestic clothing and textiles manufacturer firms attended DLA Troop Support’s Joint Advanced Planning Brief for Industry in Cherry Hill, New Jersey Nov. 17-18.
The JAPBI is an annual engagement hosted by the Clothing and Textiles supply chain, geared towards fostering communication between the Department of Defense and military clothing and textiles manufacturers.
DLA Director of Acquisition Matthew Beebe provided the keynote address, emphasizing DLA’s Strategic Plan and industry’s key role in the agency’s warfighter support mission.
“We need to have a strategic relationship with a larger part of our 10,000-supplier base,” Beebe said. “That is where our focus is, [and] this event is very clearly part of that, but … the rich part of it is that we have a dialogue and walk away with a greater understanding both ways.”
The JAPBI aligns with DLA’s industry engagement strategy by providing a forum for DLA and the military services to share demand forecasting and pertinent item information with vendors. Suppliers can also provide candid data on their experience conducting business with DLA through the agency’s biennial Supplier Feedback Survey.
Army Col. Derek Bird, the project manager for soldier survivability at Program Executive Office Soldier, provided an update on the Army’s uniform support strategy and shared the military services’ collective goal of uniform synergy.
“We’re committed to lethality,” Bird said. “Now more than ever, it’s important that we focus on lifecycle management of our items and really the commonality.”
C&T Director Air Force Col. Matthew Harnly and Deputy Director David Johns, both attended the JAPBI for the first time in their current roles and expressed respective commitments to the domestic military clothing and textiles industry.
“When I left C&T, and that was probably about 15 years ago, we talked about a fragile industrial base,” Johns said. “Now I come back, and I hear about a fragile industrial base, but I don’t think fragility is the right way to describe it. If it was fragile before, it’s certainly more challenging now. You have my commitment, and you have the team’s commitment at DLA to work with all of you so that we can get through this.”
Harnly honed in on the personal connection associated with the uniform and equipment items the industry provides as a longstanding American tradition.
“Your commitment to the DOD and to our troops is different than what I’ve felt in other supply chains,” Harnly said. “Whether you’re a big business or whether you’re a preponderance of our small businesses, your commitment to what you do is important, and it’s grounded in what we do as [an organization].
“The person that wears the stuff that you provide cares about what they’re wearing, and you bring that to us,” he said.
C&T Director of Supplier Operations Steve Merch addressed the cascading challenges some vendors are facing from labor shortages to material costs increases and DLA’s mitigation efforts including enhanced communication, and opportunities for shorter contract lengths and early re-solicitation of contracts.
“We have some good vendors out there, and when everybody’s on stronger financial footing, then we do have more flexibility to support the warfighter,” Merch said.
Beebe also acknowledged the shared challenges between DLA and the declining domestic military clothing and textiles industry base as a national security concern. With this, he encouraged vendors to research opportunities in other DLA supply chains to foster more business.
“While this event is being led by Clothing and Textiles, that doesn’t mean you in the industry possibly need to ignore the other supply chains,” Beebe said. “As an example, parachutes are being purchased by DLA Aviation. Tents are partially Clothing and Textiles, partially in Construction and Equipment. Medical has gowns and some other medical support items.
“It is important that you recognize, particularly those that are new, who don’t fully understand DLA’s makeup, [that] you may have interest or opportunities beyond Clothing and Textiles,” he continued.
Event curator and C&T Strategic Material Sourcing Division Chief Donna Pointkouski also used the forum as an opportunity to thank the domestic military clothing industry base.
“Thank you, for an incredible job during an impossible time,” Pointkouski said. “You’ve heard me say many times that without you, none of us in the government can actually support the warfighter.”
DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Eric P. Shirley echoed this ‘thanks’ in a video message to attendees as he was unable to attend in person due to other mission requirements.
“The JAPBI is significant forum for several reasons, not least of which is the opportunity for our team to thank you for the critical role you, as our industry partners, play in providing the highest quality clothing and equipment to our customers,” Shirley said. “We truly could not support the military services and our federal partners without your collaboration.”
Presentations from the event can be viewed here.